Portrait of a Boy as Eros
Unknown artist, Greek
Portrait of a Boy as Eros, late 1st/2nd century CE
17.8 x 15.2 x 16.8 cm (7 x 6 x 6 5/8 inches)
Gift of Mrs. Gustav Radeke 03.009
Although believed for many years to represent the god Eros, the features of this head the fine modeling and supple rendering of the cheeks, the dimple in the figure’s cheek, the protruding upper lip, the receding chin suggest it may have actually been a portrait. Funerary portraits often combined an individualized portrait head with the attributes of a deity, suggesting that the deceased possessed qualities particular to the chosen deity or would continue to be under the god’s protection. The distinctive curly hairstyle of this piece, including braid and topknot, is commonly found on depictions of youthful mythological figures such as Eros or infant Hercules.(April 6, 2001 – January 2, 2009)
For many years, this piece was thought to represent Eros. Its distinctive curly hairstyle, with braid and topknot, is common to depictions of youthful mythological figures; yet the work’s extremely distinctive facial features, including the supple cheeks, dimple, protruding upper lip and receding chin, suggest instead that it was a portrait. The RISD head may be a blend of the two: a portrait with personalized features styled into an overall type of mythical figure. Such a practice is known for both adults and children, often in a funerary context, especially in the second and third centuries AD. In these, the deceased are represented with a portrait head and the attributes of a deity in order to suggest that he possessed qualities particular to the deity, or, especially in the case of children, that the deceased would continue to be under the protection of that deity in the afterlife.
Contributions byRidgway, Brunilde Sismondo
Publisher & DateMuseum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1972
TypeMonographs and CollectionsRethinking the RomansNew Views of Ancient Sculpture
Edited BySingsen, Judith A., ed.
Publisher & DateMuseum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 2001